Murugappa Group forays into EVs with Montra three-wheeler

by Shahkar Abidi 06 Sep 2022


Just a few weeks ago, the Murugappa Group's Tube Investments of India had indicated that it was moving aggressively into the electric-vehicle segment and had firm plans to invest up to Rs 1,000 crore that would help create at least four platforms.

The first product based on that platform has rolled out today: the Montra three-wheeler electric rickshaw.  Arun Murugappan, executive chairman, Tube Investments of India said at the launch, “The 48-volt battery powered Montra EV is packed with innovation and several industry firsts. It houses the category best 10kwh battery pack delivering an ARAI-certified range of 197km and real-world range of 155+ kilometres with peak torque of 60 Nm and a top speed of 55kph.”  It takes about 4hours to recharge the battery

After the commercial introduction of the Montra, Ti Clean Mobility plans to introduce a tractor and heavy commercial vehicle. While the electric three-wheeler is being produced in-house, the tractor and HCV would be made through acquisitions. The company will also be launching similar products for the cargo sector. However, there are no plans as of now to get into cars or two-wheelers.

For the e-rickshaw, about Rs 200 crore has been invested in product development and manufacturing processes. While some components are imported, from the beginning the e-rickshaws will have close to 75 percent indigenisation. The e-rickshaws are being produced at the company’s Chennai plant which has a production capacity of 75,000 units per annum.

The company said its 40 existing dealers will commence sales and is looking to take up the number of dealerships to 100 by the end of the current financial year. Prices for the Montra begin at Rs 3.02 lakh and three variants are on offer – soft top, hard top and long range.

Tube Investments Clean Mobility (TICM) is a part of Rs 54K crore Murugappa Group that has invested Rs 200 crore for setting up of its plant at Ambattu near Chennai. The plant has an installed capacity of 75k units annually with around 200 engineers and technicians working at two of the group's R&D centres working on various aspects of product development including localisation work.

According to KK Paul, MD, TICM, the first product to come out from this investment is the Montra, a three-wheeler e-rickshaw that has been conceived and crafted from a clean sheet design. It has been positioned at the top of the premium price band at Rs 3.02 lakh, slightly higher than other OEMs. “For the price differential, the number of features the customer is getting is pretty attractive," says Paul. 

While premium product pricing was an important consideration, the final pricing was established after extensive market research. "We conducted consumer clinics to find out what is the price elasticity or a price point beyond which a consumer will not be able to afford. And the basis that we are trying to work out our cost structures. It cannot be just free because we want to play at a premium segment. In fact, the premium is very less that we are changing" Paul added. 

Unlike the typical passenger three-wheelers that ferry passengers, Montra has been conceived with comfort and features like those found in four-wheeler. On the tech side of things, it features the latest cloud and app-based functions with features like park assistant mode for better manoeuvrability, monitoring driving behaviour, maintenance alerts and other connected features are among the specifications. Instrument cluster is digital  

The set-up will also support mobile apps for drivers and passengers. For drivers it will help in tracking charging, maintenance, mileage and other aspects of a vehicle; a separate mobile application for passengers will help him/her in getting to know the green miles covered or even to book a vehicle similar to Ola or Uber.

Sushant Jena, Business Head, Montra e-three-wheeler at TICM said that during the product concept stage, extensive research was done with users (drivers) to figure out after sales and ownership experiences. One aspect that came out from the research was the safety factor for passengers and drivers.

As a result, the design and fabrication of the rickshaw was to meet these requirements while offering comfort and convenience for passengers. The structure uses boron steel and other composites.

It takes about 4 hours to recharge the ergonomics for driver and passenger have been specially catered for.

Besides the 40 authorised dealers in five Southern states, the plan is to expand it further to 100 plus dealerships by the end of this year. In addition, around 350 independent mechanics are specially being trained for servicing of the vehicles at various locations. "It will all be mapped in the mobile app" added Jena. 

 


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